Montana Politics

Senate Bill 338 has backing from the entire political spectrum, Montana House should support it

Written by Calamity Jan
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If you haven’t read my first blog post on Senate Bill 338, please check it out.

Senate Bill 338 is a very simple piece of legislation. Puget Sound Energy and Talen have made incredible amounts of money using the labor of people in Colstrip. Senate Bill 338 makes sure these massive energy companies help the families of Colstrip transition. These utilities are already being held accountable for environmental clean-ups; they should also help the people that made them so much money.

Senate Bill 338 is justified and most people on both sides of the aisle agree.

Colstrip Units 1 & 2 are closing because of a lawsuit. The utilities cut corners for profit and the Seirra Club and MEIC sued. Industry’s greed is not the fault of workers, but the utilities and MEIC still seem bent on leaving the people of Colstrip with nothing. In fact, some people in the political chattering class are even wondering what kind of a deal MEIC brokered with the utilities. In the settlement that called for the closures of Unites 1 & 2, did MEIC agree to help Puget Sound Energy and Talen avoid the human costs of their greed? There could be nothing to these claims, but the fact that MEIC lobbyists and lobbyists from the utilities are roaming the halls of the Capitol together does seem suspicious at best.

Last month, Senate Bill 338 got its first hearing in the Senate Energy Committee. I streamed the hearing and there were some surprising takeaways.

First, the proponents of Senate Bill 338 outnumbered the opponents almost 3-to-1.

Those supporting Senate Bill 338 included farmers from eastern Montana, multiple unions (including the union representing teachers whose schools will struggle when 1 & 2 close), residents of Colstrip, business owners, Governor Bullock’s staff, Attorney General Tim Fox’s staff, Democratic Senators, Republican Senators, and members of Northern Plains Resource Council, a grassroots environmental organization with actual members. This is what a diverse coalition looks like and it demonstrated just how much support Senate Bill 338 has.

Those opposing the bill were MEIC, a lobbyist for Puget Sound Energy, a lobbyist for Talen Energy, the Chamber of Commerce, and a renewables lobbyist brought in by MEIC.

Senate Bill 338 flew through committee with the support of conservatives, ardent environmentalists like Senators Sue Malek, and progressives like Cynthia Wolken who has been an outspoken supporter of the bill.

Senate Bill 338 then passed the the Montana Senate 43-6 with backing from the entire political spectrum.

The law will now move to the House where things are much more unpredictable. Let’s hope our Representatives see the value in helping their fellow Montanans and don’t listen to MEIC as they continue to carry the water for industry using ridiculous scare tactics.

From The Ghost of Tom Joad:

MEIC’s Lead Lobbyist writes, Senate Bill 338 “moves us in the direction of punishing businesses that have invested billions in the state and are ready to move to the new energy economy. The town of Colstrip needs help with transition, and that doesn’t include scaring away new business.”

MEIC’s argument is disingenuous at best and a corporate lie at worst.  And just plain confusing given its history of lawsuits.

he fact of the matter is that corporate America uses these kind of scare tactics to keep their huge profits safe without taking any responsibility for their actions. It’s sad that MEIC is Talon’s mouthpiece and siding with corporations over people.

Additionally, the facts just don’t agree with the story MEIC is trying to sell. When Puget Sound Energy closed a coal plant in Washington state, they paid the community almost $50 million. Guess what? Puget Sound Energy is still operating in Washington and investing in Washington.

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Calamity Jan

5 Comments

  • This, by Diego Rivas, in the 2 April Missoulian: goo.gl/Qr0q19

    “Potential developers of businesses and facilities that we hope will someday replace Colstrip look at such legislation and see increased risks, increased cost and increased reason to develop somewhere other than Montana.”

    I think the Sierra Club, which has a powerful chapter in the state of Washington, is a bigger player in this than the MEIC. The Club argues that wind generated electricity from Montana can replace Colstrip generated electricity. I’m not sure whether the Club and MEIC have cut a deal, formal or informal, with PSE, but by opposing SB-338, and getting chummy with the likes of the Montana Chamber of Commerce, both organizations certainly give the appearance of subordinating the interests of the residents of Colstrip to the long term agendas of campaigns against fossil fuels and for wind and solar generated electricity.

    At the Senate’s hearing on SB-338, incidentally, Rivas couldn’t restrain himself from attacking the good faith of legislators, thereby earning a rebuke from the committee’s presiding officer. The clip of his testimony is a case study in how not to testify effectively.

  • […] As Intelligent Discontent pointed out, SB 338 is supported by “farmers from eastern Montana, multiple unions (including the union representing teachers whose schools will struggle when 1 & 2 close), residents of Colstrip, business owners, Governor Bullock’s staff, Attorney General Tim Fox’s staff, Democratic Senators, Republican Senators, and members of Northern Plains Resource Council, a grassroots environmental organization with actual members. This is what a diverse coalition looks like and it demonstrated just how much support Senate Bill 338 has.” […]

  • […] As Intelligent Discontent pointed out, SB 338 is supported by “farmers from eastern Montana, multiple unions (including the union representing teachers whose schools will struggle when 1 & 2 close), residents of Colstrip, business owners, Governor Bullock’s staff, Attorney General Tim Fox’s staff, Democratic Senators, Republican Senators, and members of Northern Plains Resource Council, a grassroots environmental organization with actual members. This is what a diverse coalition looks like and it demonstrated just how much support Senate Bill 338 has.” […]

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